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Walk this way: NZ’s youngest Te Araroa trail walkers

Two New Zealand children have this week become the youngest people to walk the length of the country, completing the 3,000km Te Araroa Trail at Bluff’s iconic Stirling Point sign post.

Jonathan, 7 and Elizabeth, 9, set out from Cape Reinga with their parents Chris and Jorinde Rapsey in October 2018, completing the North Island segment of the trail just prior to Christmas.

The South Island had been a real highlight Mrs Rapsey said.

“We really enjoyed the ability to camp in so many places along the trail in the South Island … it has had more of a wilderness feeling.”

The family averaged around 20 km a day over the whole trip, something Mrs Rapsey initially thought the children might struggle with. However, they’ve done two 40 km days and had walked more than 30 km in a day quite a few times.

“The children were great the whole way. A 20 or 25 km day became a nice cruisy one for us by the end of it.”

She says there haven’t been many fights, with the most contentious issues early in the trip being the flavour of muesli bar, while latter fights revolved around who got to walk with mummy or who got to walk with daddy.

“If you are going with children you really need someone in your group that really knows what they are doing, but you can definitely do it. Chris is a keen mountaineer and hunter so he has a lot of experience. For families that aren’t as experienced I would say join a local tramping club or go on overnight trips with the children to get them excited.”

The Rapseys rented out their Dunedin home to help fund the trip and Jonathan and Elizabeth were able to keep up their home schooling, incorporating their experience into their learning.

“Walking the last stretch feels a bit unreal really. We’ve been reflecting and thinking about what we’ve achieved but I don’t think it has sunk in yet.”

Mrs Rapsey says celebrations were “low key”, with the family enjoying a nice dinner out in Bluff before returning home to Dunedin.

“We keep talking about other trips we could do, either on Stewart Island or in Fiordland. We will definitely do more.”

Te Araroa Trust chief executive Mark Weatherall congratulated Jonathan and Elizabeth on their achievement and encouraged more New Zealanders to give it a go.

“Te Araroa embraces much of what is at the core of our national identity – the great outdoors, dramatic landscapes and a sense of adventure. Whether you tackle the whole trail like the Rapsey family or walk a section of the trail in the weekend, it’s a great way to see the country.”

The Trust’s website (www.teararoa.org.nz) features details of the trail, experiences of others who have walked – or are currently walking – it, FAQs, safety information, and suggestions for some of the trail’s best day and multi-day walks.

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